1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 118 Articles

The situation in Syria has revived a number of well-worn foreign-policy phrases, from "boots on the ground" to "slam-dunks" and "smoking guns." As the American response to the conflict has involved far more in the way of words than deeds, it's worth taking a closer look at the words used by officials and commentators, no matter how hackneyed.  Continue reading...
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Since the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, U.S. government officials have been wrestling with a question of semantics: should Morsi's removal be called a coup? The answer to the question has serious foreign-policy implications.  Continue reading...
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Last December I commemorated the two hundredth anniversary of what was then the first-known appearance of "Uncle Sam" as a personification of the United States, which turned up in a Bennington, Vermont newspaper. Now, just in time for the Fourth of July, comes new evidence that "Uncle Sam" was in use as early as 1810, more than two years before the phrase's popularization in the War of 1812.  Continue reading...
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Judges, like the rest of us, turn to dictionaries when they're not sure about the meaning of a word. Or they turn to dictionaries when they're sure about a word's meaning, but they need some confirmation. Or they turn to a dictionary that defines a word the way they want it defined, rejecting as irrelevant, inadmissible, and immaterial any definitions they don't like.  Continue reading...
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When Fox News host Megyn Kelly gamely took on Erick Erickson, a contributor to the network, for his provocative statements about gender roles last week, she was puzzled by one word in particular that Erickson had used to describe his ideological opponents. "I don't know what the word is... some sort of liberals, eco-liberals, what did you call them?" "Emo liberals," Erickson clarified.  Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

How Language Shapes The Gun Debate

On NPR's Morning Edition, Ari Shapiro reported on how the debate over gun restrictions in the United States is powerfully framed by terms such as "gun control" and "gun rights." Our own Ben Zimmer is interviewed about how language shapes such political debates. Listen to the segment here, and check out a list of "loaded words" from the gun debate here.
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CNN Money has announced that it will "steer clear" of the word sequestration, along with its snappier cousin sequester, in reporting on Capitol Hill budget negotiations, branding it esoteric jargon. That might be a good move, considering that, according to a recent poll, two-thirds of voters don't even know what sequester means. How did we get saddled with this bit of Beltway lingo?  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 15-21 of 118 Articles